Spotify comes to PlayStation

Spotify has come to PlayStations 3 and 4 in the form of PlayStation Music. 

From MCV (emphasis mine):

The app itself seems as feature rich as Spotify’s desktop client, although it has had a makeover to be more visually led. It’s also specifically designed to allow for the background streaming of tracks. This even works in-game, where users are free to listen of music of their choice while still having the in-game dialogue and ambient sounds played as normal.

This is a smart move by Sony. In-game streaming of Spotify’s library is a killer feature. The Xbox One just became a little less desirable. 


Bruce Lee on self-actualisation

I found this quote from Bruce Lee over at Farnam Street:

… if you are cursed with perfectionism, then you’re absolutely sunk. This ideal is a yardstick which always gives you the opportunity to browbeat yourself, to berate yourself and others. Since this ideal is an impossibility, you can never live up to it. You are merely in love with this ideal, and there is no end to the self-torture, to the self-nagging, self-castrating. It hides under the mask of ‘self-improvement’. It never works.

Fluid layouts and Fitts’ Law

This blog post originally appeared on my now defunct Tumblr blog back in 2013.

O2 recently redesigned their UK website. Here’s the navigation menu:

…and here’s the same menu when my browser window is maximised:

The menu has a fluid height of 100%, so it always fills the browser window vertically, no matter how tall it gets.

The problem is that the clickable areas of the menu options don’t get bigger to compensate for the larger distances between them. There’s no invisible padding at all – you either click directly on the text or you miss the target.

Fitts’ Law tells us that the further away and smaller an object is, the longer it takes to point to.

Having such small targets so far apart increases the time and effort it takes to select one of them with a pointing device like a mouse.

Usability could be drastically improved by either setting a maximum height restriction on the menu or by expanding the size of the clickable targets as the distances between them grow.

Searching on the App Store

Based on John Gruber’s recommendation, I downloaded TypeSnippets for iPhone. I searched for it on the App Store, but I mistakenly thought it was called TypeSnippet (without the ‘s’).

Here’s what happened:

The iOS App Store search results page for 'typesnippet', showing zero results
What happens when you search for ‘typesnippet’ on the App Store

No results.

NO. Results. 

Just because I missed an ‘s’ from the end of my search query.

It’s 2015. There’s no place in the world for search fields that are this unforgiving. For all of the great user experiences Apple can deliver, even they get some of the basics very very wrong.

Incidentally, if you remember the ‘s’, everything’s fine and you’ll find a great app:

A screenshot of the App Store showing a successful search result for TypeSnippet
Type the exact name of the app and everything’s fine

 

Pebble Time

I backed Pebble Time on Kickstarter last night. That colour e-paper screen looks stunning, and the seven-day battery life is a lot more palatable than the single day the Apple Watch will initially offer. 

I’ve been sitting on the Apple Watch fence since it was announced, but last night I made up my mind to wait until at least the second iteration before giving Apple yet another license to reach into my wallet each year. 

I’m willing to bet that we’ll see a big evolutionary jump between the first and second generation Apple Watches (like we did with the iPad) as Apple figures out how to deliver an optimal experience from this new category of device. It looks like the Pebble Time will tide me over nicely until then. 

What good is Twitter?

I read two great articles today that turn a critical eye towards Twitter.

The first is an illuminating piece by Derek Thompson, who questions the value of Twitter to anything but itself.

It’s fair to come away from these metrics thinking that Twitter is worthless. But that’s an unsophisticated conclusion. The more sophisticated takeaway is that Twitter is worthless for the limited purpose of driving traffic to your website, because Twitter is not a portal for outbound links, but rather a homepage for self-contained pictures and observations…

Something I already suspected has now been made crystal clear: 99 percent of my work on Twitter belongs to Twitter.

The second is a piece by Kevin Roose for Fusion that explores “tweet-deleters”: a subculture of Twitter users who are using tools to automatically delete their own tweets after a set period of time.

In the beginning, Twitter was supposed to be a vessel for fleeting thoughts. People posted about their lunches, their sports teams, the news of the day. But because tweets are public and permanent by default, all of those ephemeral tweets congealed over the years into a kind of global permanent record…

Josh Miller, a product manager at Facebook, wrote a piece of code that deleted his tweets after seven days. He frames his tweet-deleting as a decision to make Twitter more like other forms of conversation.

“My opinions aren’t permanent in my head (I often change my mind over time), and they’re not permanent when shared around the dinner table (nobody is recording our conversations),” Miller wrote in an e-mail. “So it just doesn’t make sense to me that they would be permanent online.”

I recently deactivated my Twitter account (for a week) to try and better understand the role the little blue bird is (and should be) playing in my life. I’m still processing and learning from the experience, but one thing I’m sure of is that it’s worth pausing once in a while to evaluate my relationship with the online social networks I belong to.

I hope these articles are signs of a cultural shift towards a more considered and critical approach to ‘sharing’ online.

The Room at Bristol Bad Film Club

Last night I attended my first Bristol Bad Film Club screening at the Redgrave Theatre.

We saw The Room, which has been their most-requested film to date. It’s not hard to see why!

Here’s a clip:

The Room is something else. I imagine this is what would happen if an alien made a film about human relationships without really understanding how and why people interact with each other.

If you get a chance to see this film, take it. You won’t regret forget it.

Pay to comment

Alana Newhouse, editor-in-chief of Tablet magazine:

…the Internet, for all of its wonders, poses challenges to civilized and constructive discussion, allowing vocal-and, often, anonymous-minorities to drag it down with invective (and worse). Starting today, then, we are asking people who’d like to post comments on the site to pay a nominal fee-less a paywall than a gesture of your own commitment to the cause of great conversation.

Vitriolic comments are probably my least favourite thing about the Internet. (I’m convinced that one of the reasons I don’t use YouTube as much as everyone else seems to is because I find the comments so upsetting.)

I’m not sure that asking commenters to pay is the answer. It raises some classist and borderline ethical issues, as Chris Plante points out for The Verge:

There is, of course, an argument that charging for comments is kind of classist, and that $2 a day for the minor privilege of leaving feedback on a single website invites only those with cash to burn to participate in the conversations on the site. But that’s part of a larger conversation about the perceived right to comment freely on privately owned website.

Regardless of this, I think Tablet deserves credit for being bold and trying something different. I’m keen to see what the end results are. It’s certainly a more reasonable and realistic approach than forcing everyone to use their real identities online.

A bit of fun with home links

Here’s a neat little design detail I’d love to see more of online:

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This is the logo for Balsamiq, a low-fi, rapid wireframing tool. Like most company / product websites, Balsamiq’s logo lives up in the top-left corner of every page. And just like pretty much every other website, selecting the logo will take you to the homepage.

What’s notable here is that Balsamiq’s web designers have added a neat little animation when you hover over the logo. Do that, and here’s what you see:

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This playful visual cue confirms that clicking the logo will take you to the homepage. While this isn’t really necessary (homepage logo links are a well-established interaction paradigm), this little touch nevertheless reinforces the convention and shows that Balsamiq’s designers went just that little bit further to make their site more usable and fun.

If nothing else, it may raise a smile.

(A version of this post was originally published to my now defunct Tumblr blog in February 2013.)